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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.



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  #46  
Old 9 Oct 2012
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/25.html



It's a grey, overcast morning as we leave Dawson City to head west. Just outside of the city, a tiny ferry called the George Black waits to take us over the Yukon River. It only fits about 4 RVs at a time, but it runs quickly - taking just 5 minutes to cross the river. And the price is right - it's free! During the winter, the ferry stops running and residents just drive or snowmobile across the ice to get to the other side.


Boarding the ferry from Dawson City to the Top of the World Highway

Across the Yukon River, the patchy pavement quickly turns to gravel and starts to climb up above the timberline. We're on the Top of The World Highway, one of the most northern highways in North America. It probably got its name because most of the road rests on the spine of the mountains that overlooks the Yukon to the north and colourful valleys on both sides of the ridge.


The view is duplicated on the other side of the road!

It's hard to choose which side of the road to look, all the different coloured trees in the valley look like they've been painted by Seurat. The gravel is fairly hard packed, but is only open in the summer. There is very little traffic on this fine Sunday morning, but half-way through the ride, a red R1200GS Adventure blasts by us like we were standing still. I manage to glance at his plates as he passed us and was surprised to see another Ontarioan! What are the chances?


Trying to see the pointillism of it all


Top o' the World to ya!


Looking down into wonderfully coloured valleys

About 100 kms in, we reach the Canada/US border where I experienced the absolute most friendliest border crossing! The border guards were all, "Sure take a picture", and "Yeah, you can rest right over there"... It didn't seem like they saw a lot of traffic, but when they did, they told us there were a lot of BMW motorcycles in the mix. As if to prove his point, the red 1200ADV from Ontario was parked right up behind the building. We chatted with Brian, from Huntsville, ON, he was on an 18-day round-trip from Ontario to Alaska and back! Wow, that's a lot of riding!


Brian is waiting for his two other riding buddies that he left behind in the gravel dust, he told us to watch out for them

This border crossing is interesting, it's one of the few customs buildings jointly run by both the US and Canadian governments. The RV on the left is coming into the US and the minivan on the right is crossing into Canada.


More BMW motorcycles at the border

Neda went over to chat with the new GS riders, two 1200s and an older F650GS. Turns out they were from Florida, flew into Anchorage, rented BMW motorcycles and were on their way to Dawson City.


Neda chatting with the Floridians


It's official! This trip is now INTERNATIONAL!!!

From the US border, or Boundary, Alaska, as it's named, the road turns into the Taylor Highway. Same gravel, same twisty, mountainous cuves, same amazing scenery, and once again, another BMW motorcycle from Ontario blows by us! This time, an R1200RT! Oh, the humiliation! I intercom Neda, "Seriously!?!" This was presumably one of Brian's riding buddies, he was a big man and he made the gigantic RT look like a small bicycle underneath him!

50 kms later, we see the sign for Chicken, Alaska. I'm not really sure you could call it a town, just a collection of buildings in a big gravel lot. We pulled in and saw Brian and his riding crew as well as a couple of Harleys. Motorcyclists seem to make up the majority of the tourists at this stop. We had lunch (fish and chips, not chicken) with Brian, Heinz and another 1200ADV rider, all from Huntsville, ON, as well as Baltimore Jim and his partner Phylis from Aspen, CO, who have both put on a gajillion miles on their Harleys. Had a great time exchanging travel stories!


Heinz pulls out of Chicken on his miniaturized RT

Did you know the residents of Chicken originally wanted to name their town, Ptarmigan, but they didn't know how to spell Ptarmigan! Chicken Ptarmesan?

After another 100 kms, the Taylor Highway reaches the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction. We don't get passed by any more BMW motorcycles from Ontario, although at this rate, I fully expected a C1 to come zipping in between us. We keep on riding north until we hit the North Pole. North Pole, Alaska, that is!


Not sure why Giganta-Santa is wearing pasties...

North Pole, Alaska is nowhere near the magnetic north pole, but they play up the whole Christmas theme with roads like Kris Kringle Drive, and all the poles that their road signs are mounted on are striped white and red like candy canes. Jeez... We do fall into tourist mode though and stop into the Santa Claus house to see their real-live reindeers and pose with several dozen SoDS (Santas of Differing Sizes).


And not one of them with a red nose


Given how cold it's getting, this seemed entirely normal

As we ride north of the North Pole (is that even geographically possible?), we enter Fairbanks as the gloomy weather has now turned to rain. Wonder where we can go from here...?
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  #47  
Old 11 Oct 2012
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Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay.

The name is whispered in revered tones as one of the Holy Grails of adventure motorcycling - the most northern point in North America that you can travel by overland vehicle. The treacherous road leading up there has been featured in Ice Road Truckers and World's Most Dangerous Roads.

So, since we were in the neighbourhood, we decided to see what all the fuss was about...



In 1968, North America's largest oil field was discovered in Prudhoe Bay, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Then the oil crisis hit, so the US Government thought what a great idea it would be to build America's most dangerous road in the northern tundra of Alaska, and then stealth-market it on ADVRider to attract motorcyclists from all over the world to brave 414 miles of dirt, mud, potholes, washboard, gravel and pay over $5 a gallon along the way for the privilege! And the motorcyclists came, and together they all subsidized the construction of the Alaska Pipeline!


South section of the Dalton Highway, the Alaska Pipeline a constant fixture

We left Fairbanks the morning after arriving. So many people along the way had warned us of the impending cold weather that we were feeling a little rushed. The rains in the area had not let up for the last couple of days and the forecast didn't leave us with any window for dry weather for another week. So we decided if we were going to do this, it would be now. I think we suffered a bit for our lack of preparation. More on that a bit later...

The Dalton Highway begins about 70 miles north of Fairbanks. Almost immediately we are confronted by construction, and we are told to wait for a pilot vehicle to escort us through a single lane of freshly-laid dirt. The pilot vehicle eventually showed up after 15 minutes, but it led us all the way through while tailing a watering truck! The construction crews water the dirt to keep down the dust, so we were basically riding fresh mud created just a hundred feet ahead of us. Great.

We slowly slipped and slid over the muck, a lineup of impatient truckers behind us shaking their heads at these two bikes from Ontario with street tires barely keeping their rides upright. If we dropped the bikes at this point, they probably would have just run us over to keep their delivery schedules!


Our first break at Yukon Crossing

Two muddy construction zones later, we had our first break at Yukon Crossing. We gassed up our tanks for the next leg, ate a brief lunch and then talked to two bikers coming from the north. We were curious about the road ahead and since the weather and construction changes daily, the only fresh information are from travelers that have just come off the road. They told us we had endured the most toughest section and that it was just hard-packed gravel ahead of us. Neda and I breathed a collective sigh of relief until we found out that they had only gone to the Arctic Circle marker and back, not all the way to the end of the Dalton. They had turned back at mile 115 of 414 and had no information on what was ahead further north - what many have said was the most treacherous part of the Dalton Highway.


Nice pavement on the Dalton is the exception, not the rule. Beautiful scenery on the Dalton is the rule, not the exception.


We've officially crossed the Arctic Circle!

Anything north of the Arctic Circle gets to experience the midnight sun in the summertime, but is also plunged into 24 hours of darkness in the winter. Most tourists and motorcycle travelers end their Dalton Highway trek at the Arctic Circle marker, taking a picture of the sign for posterity and then turning back south to Fairbanks, but we're after much larger game!

There are only three towns on the Dalton Highway. No other services exist on the road, no McDonalds, no gas stations, no convenience stores, nothing but cold Alaska wilderness, 18-wheelers and the constant companionship of the Alaska Pipeline running parallel to the highway. I'm told that the Automobile Associations refuse to service the Dalton, not considering it a proper road. Any catastrophic breakdowns/crashes along the way will involve you hiring a private towing company to come out and fetch you at $5/mile back to Fairbanks. My mental calculator was working out how high the financial stakes were the further north we headed.

The "town" of Coldfoot came upon us at mile marker 175. "Town" in quotes because it looked to be a collection of trailers strewn across a muddy, gravelly lot just behind the trees off the highway. This was the last place we could get gas before Deadhorse, and a large sign reminded us, "Last gas for 240 miles". 240 miles was stretching the limits of our tanks, so we both made sure to fill up our 4L jerry cans just in case. I thought how ironic it would be to run out of gas on the Dalton, while not a hundred feet away, the Alaska Pipeline pumped 2.1 million barrels of oil a day past us...


Boreal Lodge in Wiseman

The second town is Wiseman, only 14 miles north of Coldfoot. It is an original gold mining community, but now houses historical log cabins and a few lodges and BnBs for travelers on the Dalton. Most of the population of 20 people practice a subsistence lifestyle, only hunting and gathering what they need to survive, nothing more. We stayed at the Boreal Lodge, which was quite a step up from the trailer/hotel in Coldfoot. That night, I pondered over all the travel advisories I'd read about the road to Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay. I felt like I had read just enough to scare me, but not enough to prepare me, given that our route to this point was already difficult and yet, from what I read, the worse was yet to come.

Neda didn't seem to be worried at all. Either we weren't surfing the same websites, or she's got balls of steel.

Well, tomorrow we find out.
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  #48  
Old 11 Oct 2012
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Awesome guys, photos, maps, commentary just awesome.

I’m convinced. I must now convince a special someone to join me, showing her your blog might just do the trick, fingers crossed.

The house and everything else is up for sale !

More hills, corners and views to you,

Cheers Dave
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  #49  
Old 12 Oct 2012
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Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/27.html



Neda's guilty pleasure is a TV program called, "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" (MXC). On the show, contestants are run through a crazy obstacle course where more and more outlandish situations are thrown at them in an effort to knock them off their motorcycles. No wait, that's the Dalton Highway...


"The insides of my shorts are now the same colour as the road but I'm OK!"

When we wake up in Wiseman, we discover it's been raining all night and still coming down in the morning. This means that we'll be facing our first extreme elimination challenge - slippery, greasy mud underneath our smooth, street tires. Like they say in MXC, "DON'T GET ELIMINATED!"...


2 wheels vs 18. GAME ON! Sukakpak Mountain in the background

The Dalton Highway was built especially for truckers hauling material all the way up to Prudhoe Bay to build the Alaska Pipeline. It's also called the Haul Road, and today is used to carry supplies to Deadhorse, where all the work is done extracting the crude out of the oil fields. Trucks are the undisputed King of the Road and riding amongst them requires special attention. The biggest danger is getting hit by rocks and stones kicked up by any one of the 18 wheels passing you by at close proximity. The speed limit on the Dalton is 50mph and it is not uuncommon to see rocks hitting your windshield and visor at closing speeds of a plastic-shattering 100mph. The common wisdom is to always pull over when you see a truck approaching, turn your helmet to the side of the road and duck behind your windscreen.


Neda wipes her muddy visor after being blinded by a passing truck

We're told that in the dry summer months, you can see a truck approaching for hundreds of metres away due to the dust cloud in the distance. Today, the dust clouds are replaced with a head-to-toe mud bath, sometimes temporarily obscuring your visor if you don't get your head turned away in time. Don't even think about smearing the mud with your already dirty gloves, so you're riding blind until you can get stopped to pull out a clean-ish rag.... "DON'T GET ELIMINATED!"


Rain and thick fog still fail to mask the brilliant autumn colours in the flatlands.

The trees become more sparse the further north we travel, as the environment is getting more inhospitable to anything shorter than ground vegetation. Stretches of construction still present challenges to our 2-wheeled vehicles, as they are not laying down asphalt, just more dirt and gravel for the trucks. The Dalton Highway was never intended for non-commercial passenger vehicles, and the condition of the road reflects this. In fact, the US government only opened the road to public access as late as 1994.


Whiteout conditions on the Atigun Pass

The Brooks Range covers most of Northern Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Most of the land north of this mountain range is called the North Slope, as the mountains face north and drain precipitation into the Arctic ocean. In fact, the original name of the Dalton Highway was called the North Slope Road. This is where we are introduced to our next Extreme Elimination Challenge: snow and ice on the Atigun Pass.

The Atigun Pass climbs 4739 feet above sea level, and as we make the ascent up the wet, gravelly road, we encounter white-out conditions, the shoulders and mountain-sides slowly accumulating with snow. Our speed drops, not only because of the road conditions, but because we are also busy marveling at the amazing views unfolding before us.


Riding through the snow-covered mountain ranges, the views are amazing! Too bad the road conditions have us scared sleetless.


To me, riding the Atigun Pass in a snowstorm has to be the highlight of our trip so far.


Starting our descent down the other side of the Atigun Pass


Atigun Gorge, just north of the pass


Made it through the Atigun Pass!


Taking a break in the Atigun Gorge with our buddy the Alaska Pipeline


Neda is admiring the scenery


Off we go again!

Our preparations for the Dalton Highway were non-existent. We just showed up. While most motorcyclists donned knobbies or more aggressive tires, we were using Tourances, half-bald from long riding days on the abrasive pavement of the BC and Yukon highways. All the weight on my bike was piled up on my passenger seat and topcase, making my centre of gravity precipitously high and back. While riding the greasy muddy sections, I felt like a tight-rope walker balancing a bowling ball at the top of a long broomstick!


Lunchtime at Galbraith Camp

At Galbraith Lake, we came up with solution to my high centre-of-gravity problem. We took all the food out of my topcase. And ate it. Next Extreme Elimination Challenge - "Postprandial somnolence" - rider drowsiness induced by overeating.


Galbraith Lake


So muddy

We found out that construction crews spray Calcium Chloride on the roads. CaCl2 is a thickening agent which thickens the mud and hardens it in the summertime. However, when it gets wet, it produces a slippery clay that when splashed onto hot pipes and radiators, bakes into a ceramic that is impossible to get rid off without a chisel. We are recommended to immediately wash this crap off our bikes before this happens, since CaCl2 is mildly corrosive as well.


Somewhere underneath all that mud is a motorcycle and a rider


We made friends with a lot of flaggers at construction sites

Often there is a 15-30 minute wait at each construction site. Motorcycles are typically waved to the front, so we got to chat with a lot of the flaggers while waiting for the pilot vehicle. We found out from this flag-person that a stretch of the Dalton was closed a couple of days ago due to snow, so it was fortunate we were arriving today. She told us that while her station was closed, she built a snowman to hold the stop sign, and as it melted, all the construction drivers mocked her snow-flagger for falling asleep on the job! LOL!


Following a pilot vehicle through a construction site

I leave a healthy distance behind Neda. We've found that our dirt bike skills come in handy on this road, and when the road becomes too gnarly and the bikes go sideways, a little throttle helps to keep everything upright and pointed straight. "When in doubt, throttle it out!". Oh and, "DON'T GET ELIMINATED!"


Final stretch (literally and figuratively) before we reach Prudhoe Bay. Next challenge: deep washboard ruts in the background

Happy Valley is at mile marker 334 and the rain starts to let up and we see sun peeking out from the clouds. The mud turns to hard-packed gravel and our speeds pick up a bit. We are sobered up by the sight of a car and a truck overturned in the ditch and we slow down again. Obviously, they too fell victim to complacency on the Haul Road and paid the price. Speaking of which, at a tow-charge of $5/mile, 400 miles north of Fairbanks, I assume it was cheaper leaving the rotting carcasses of their vehicles up here than pay for a tow back to civilization.


The obligatory picture at the Deadhorse General Store - one of the only Welcome signs in this oil camp


We like our sign better!

The drilling community of Deadhorse slowly appears on the horizon. It appears slowly because all of the buildings are no more than one-story tall, having been hauled up on the back of an 18-wheeler. Our relief at reaching the end of the treacherous Dalton Highway is tempered by the fact that we are really only half-way through it. We've got to do it all again to get back to Fairbanks!

The weather forecast shows non-stop rain for the next 5 days. Do we wait and risk snow or ride back in even deeper mud?

"DON'T GET ELIMINATED!"
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  #50  
Old 13 Oct 2012
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So cool seeing how far we've traveled on a map of North America! Some interesting statistics:

Toronto to Vancouver = 4206 kms
Vancouver to Deadhorse = 4117 kms

Our cross-country trip to Vancouver is almost exactly half-way to Deadhorse! This really puts the vast distances of Arctic Canada and the US into perspective!


Deadhorse gas station - feels like we're filling up directly from the ground!

Our first task was to fill up our empty tanks. After our last gas stop in Coldfoot, we were almost completely dry. However, we were shocked to find out gas is $5.33/gallon in Deadhorse. Almost directly underneath our tires lies the largest oil fields in North America, but due to state taxation issues, there are no refineries in Prudhoe Bay. All the gasoline up here has been shipped up via the 18-wheelers that tried to kill us the day before.


Downtown Deadhorse.

Almost all the buildings here are single-story trailer units that look as if they are fitted together like Lego. This is less a town than it is a community of oil drilling companies that ship workers here for months at a time, begrudgingly tolerating the harsh and spartan conditions, counting the days and paycheques before they return home to family and civilization. No one is here for leisure except the few adventure motorcyclists and the odd traveler looking to reach the Arctic Ocean.


Our oasis!

Accommodations here are as exorbitantly expensive as the gas. The cost to ship supplies and materials for the workers up the Haul Road are reflected in the prices that the tourists pay, while everyone who actually works here is completely comped by the companies they work for. Neda did some research and found that the Prudhoe Bay Hotel was the best deal in town - all buffet style meals and a 24-hour kitchen. We booked in for two days and paid a handsome price for the respite from the non-stop rain and mud outside.

The hotel was full-service, so we were welcome to help ourselves to all the supplies they stocked. And for the price we paid, we went ape-sheet on laundry soap, fabric softener, soap, condiments, wet naps, as well as raided the kitchen for a weeks worth of sandwiches, cookies, potato chips. As we watched the rain continue to fall non-stop outside, we were comforted in the knowledge that our bikes would be nice and top-heavy-tipsy for the ride back in the mud that was building up! So not looking forward to that...


Deadhorse indoor fashion accessories

Every "building" (converted trailer) in Deadhorse has a policy - either take your outdoor footwear off, or put these fetching blue booties on while you walk around. Otherwise the inside of the buildings would be coated in the same mud that our bikes were outside. All the washrooms and dining areas had large signs reminding everyone to wash their hands and to use the hand sanitizers. The temporary population of 3000 workers in Deadhorse are 80% male, and like most guys, health and cleanliness rank low in their list of priorities. As well, Deadhorse is a dry town, as you can imagine the troubles that alcohol would cause in a place composed entirely of testosterone. Neda remarked that everyone was so friendly towards her. I told her she should try visiting a prison sometime too...


Portable drilling equipment, the weight and pressure on those tires are so immense, it can only travel a few mph without them overheating and exploding

The Dalton Highway ends a few miles short of the Arctic Ocean, so to reach it, we had to book a tour from one of the local operators. There was a 24-hour waiting period for them to clear our passports with the US government. Security is a major concern, which is why there is no public access to the water without an identity check and an escort. Luckily my unpaid speeding tickets in two states did not count as a National Security violation, and we hopped in a van the next morning to see Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean.


Typical Lego trailer buildings in Deadhorse

We did see some construction of permanent buildings in Deadhorse amongst all the trailer structures. They learned the lessons of Dawson City and were using raised floor construction so as not to overheat the permafrost underneath.


A little Deadhorse humour - we are north of the timberline so these are the only trees we'll find up here. I like the nod to the gold and the Inukshok as well

The funky goggles that we are sporting are for our protection should a passing 18-wheeler spray us with bullet-shaped rocks. A lot of injuries on the slope are from exactly this and there are strict speed limits on passing other vehicles.


Coldfoot, er feet in the Arctic Ocean!

The air temperature was about 4-5C (40F), but the water felt much colder! We're told that some people actually go all the way in and swim in the dead of winter! Crazy!


Rusted metal oil barrel on the shores of Deadhorse beach


Driftwood on the beach

This driftwood is exactly like us! No, I don't mean that we are drifting around Alaska aimlessly, the wood is from Canada. Since there are no trees up here on the North Slope of the Brooks Range, the Arctic currents carry timber from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and deposit it on the shores of Prudhoe Bay.


Deadhorse art - This was the site of the original discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay. This statue is supposed to resemble the pilot flame burning on top of oil rigs

Immediately after the tour, we steeled ourselves for the long ride back down the Dalton Highway. It's been raining for the last two days straight without a break and I'm dreading the mud bog that we're going to have to ride through. Neda compounds my fears by reminding me that the road we will be riding will be very different now from the one we came up, so we really have no idea what to expect.

As if to drive the point home, the potholed stretch of road just south of Deadhorse is now besieged by hurricane-like winds. Our bikes are leaned sideways into the cross-winds as we try to find a dry line through the mud and washboard. Almost like it was a sentient (and malevolent) creature, the Dalton keeps throwing things at us, and I sense that it's somehow angry at us.


Very different scenery on the Atigun Pass

As we reach the Atigun Pass, most of the snow has melted, and the view of the gorge is tinged with low-lying reddish-brown vegetation. It is a much different road as all the pitfalls and dangers have moved on us. Even the construction areas are different, as crews finish one section and move on to another.


Atigun Gorge-ous


Approaching a deserted construction site

Almost all the construction sites are deserted as we are riding back south on the US Labor Day Monday. Although there are no watering trucks today, the rain has made the roads even slicker than on our run up. So many times I feel the bike sliding out from underneath me and I have to consciously suppress the survival instinct to roll off or brake, and goose the throttle instead. Neda's hand is hurting from the deathgrip on the handlebars. My sphincter has a deathgrip on the motorcycle seat.


The only tires worse than these would have been racing slicks


Mud at the Yukon Crossing

During our tour of the Arctic Ocean, our escort told us that August is the rainiest season in Northern Alaska. Something that we should have researched *BEFORE* coming up here!!! We are soooo unprepared. Just like the time we tried to ride up the Indian Himalayan mountains during monsoon season. We really don't make things easy on ourselves...

One thing that worked out for us was that we dodged mosquito season by a couple of weeks. During the summer, all the stagnant pools of water in the area provide a perfect breeding ground for billions of mosquitos who go on a rampage, swarming caribou and motorcyclists up and down the Dalton.


Neda likes construction sites because of the readily available port-a-potties...

During our research, we had read about the "700 yards of terror" on the Dalton. This can occur anywhere on the road and will absolutely frighten the shale out of a motorcycle rider. Our "700 yards" happened to lie right at the end. As the GPS counted down a few kms till we would hit the Elliot Highway, the mud on the road quickly multiplied. This was the Dalton's final assualt on us. My speed dropped to a crawl as the motorcycle wobbled in every direction but straight. Traction was non-existant. The high and heavy weight of all the laundry detergent and potato chips from the Prudhoe Bay Hotel threatened to topple my GS at every inch. I have never wanted to stop and give up on a motorcycle road, but those last few kms of thick and greasy, heavy mud on the Dalton had me seriously considering calling a tow-truck to come pick me up.

As we reached the safety of the pavement and broken asphalt, I heard Neda whoop over the intercom. There was much rejoicing as we celebrated having gone up *AND* down the Haul Road and arriving back in one piece!


Clean again!!!! Took us forever to power wash the CaCl2 and mud off in Fairbanks
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Old 14 Oct 2012
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After all the excitement of the last week, we are looking to relax for a little bit and take some time to get some chores done. Ever since we've crossed over into Alaska, I've had Sean Bean's voice from "Game of Thrones" in my head, ominously warning me, "Winter is coming!" We've got to start heading south soon.


Chatting during laundry day. Our riding suits are clean again!!!

A couple of weeks ago, we tried booking our regular service at Trail's End BMW in Fairbanks, but we quickly found out that that was like booking an annual medical check-up at the emergency ward. Trail's End seems to be a triage for the moto-carnage towed back from the Dalton, those bikes too wrecked to run get preferential treatment, so we instead turned to The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage, about 360 miles south of Fairbanks.


Husky sled fog in Denali National Park

Denali National Park is about halfway between Fairbanks and Anchorage, so we decided to stop by on the way south. We encountered high winds on the way there and we were often leaned sideways into the crosswinds. There were a few pucker moments when passing oncoming trucks - suddenly the crosswind would die and the bike would wobble into the lean... We were to learn later that this was an early warning of things to come.

While we were at Denali, we attended a Husky sled dog demonstration. These dogs are so energetic, all they wanted to do was run. Definitely not condominium pets! They play an important part in providing clean and silent transportation for people and equipment throughout the national park for researchers and rangers. And they are so beautiful as well!


Neda is laughing because this husky just wanted his butt scratched and kept angling his body just right


I'm totally being used and I don't care.

Maybe it was a hunch, but when we arrived in Anchorage, we made the decision to book a room instead of tenting it. During the night, a storm whipped through the city toppling down trees and power lines. Weather equipment recorded 210 km/h winds before their data feed got cut. At the time, we were just finishing watching a DVD (we miss that talking picture box and how it can magically make time disappear) and I got up to switch the TV off. Just then, I saw a bright flash outside the window and then all the lights went out. The tree right outside was on fire until the rain quickly put it out! I thought it was a lightning strike until this morning, when we walked outside we noticed the falling tree had severed a power line and the arcing had set the leaves on fire briefly.


Next-door neighbour's house. If his roof hadn't had broken the tree's fall, it would have been tall enough to land on us. See the window on the far right? That's our room...

If we had tented, we would have woken up in a tree somewhere in Oz. Thankfully, Neda's bike was in service at the dealership and the host let me store my bike in the garage.


The wind was so strong it uprooted this huge tree

Our hosts told us it normally doesn't get this windy this early. A month later, these trees would have shed all its leaves already and have been better able to withstand the high winds. We learned from the news that 25,000-30,000 homes in Anchorage were without power due to downed trees and the local electric companies were working around the clock trying to restore service around the city.


We walked around Anchorage and surveyed all the downed trees in the city


Romantic breakfast. The candle serves as both light and heat!

So our BnB was unable to serve us a hot breakfast because of the power outage. Neda feels they more than compensated by offering us chocolate peanut butter sandwiches with bananas by candlelight... Neda's kryptnonite is Nutella, but now she's found something else that will rob her of her willpower - Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter!


Pet chickens

While our hosts were out trying to find out more about the outage, we played with their pet chickens (I know, right? How awesome is that?) in the backyard. They are soooo cute! They love eating berries:


As soon as Neda starts picking berries, the chickens are on the move!

Our hosts were very gracious and accommodating, moving us to another condo with heat and power but also offering us another nights stay on them. After living in a tent for over two months, we weren't going to turn down a roof over our heads, especially in the cold, wet Alaskan autumn! They also took us out for dinner, asking us where we'd like to go. I made a bit of a faux-pas asking them for typical Anchorage fare - they ended up taking us to a pizza joint - and I suddenly realized that we were in a major US city, not a Native American community - we weren't going to get any Inupiaq dishes here!


Our wonderful hosts, Stephen and Jana

We really enjoyed our stay with Jana and Stephen, they're a really wonderful couple and they treated us like old friends instead of boarders. We asked them where Anchorageans go for a vacation - secretly hoping they wouldn't say Hawaii... They gave us some great ideas for local destinations to head out to.
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Last edited by lightcycle; 14 Oct 2012 at 17:28.
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  #52  
Old 14 Oct 2012
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just cannot wait

What a trip,on bikes.Only done europe on the bike. Shipping our vehicle over from uk next year,old LC, to go where you have been, and then south america, glad we have retired.You write a good blog.Take care.
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Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/30.html



The Kenai Peninsula is about a 5 hour ride south of Anchorage, and is a popular weekend destination for the locals. It's a great spot for fishing in the numerous rivers that run through the area, and it's home to a few picturesque towns set against the backdrop of glaciers and mountains. We're going to do like the locals and spend a weekend here.

Seward Highway AKA Highway 1 is a twisty paved road that follows the shoreline of the Turnagain Arm, an inlet on the west-coast of the peninsula. It winds around the mouth, allowing a view across the bay of where you're going to be 45 minutes later. The peaks of Chugarch State Park lie inland and we're treated to our favorite motorcycle scenery - waters on one side, mountains on the other. Stephen told us that the gray silt that stretches for a few hundred meters away from the road during the low-tide were the remains of the mountains, carved away by the receding glaciers.


Riding down Homer Spit

We reach Homer in the late afternoon and try to find a place to sleep. The majority of campsites are situated along the main attraction in Homer - a 5-mile-long, thin spit of land that thrusts out into Kachemak Bay. As we ride down to the end of the spit, we are treated to a 270-degree panorama of snow-capped mountains that line the shores of the bay. It is truly a wondrous site! Unfortunately most of the places are closing down for the season. With temperatures reaching the freezing mark overnight, it's easy to see why there weren't a lot of campers!

Jana introduced us to an Alaskan term, "Termination Dust". No, it's not a military bio-chemical weapon, it's the first trace of snow that appears on the mountains around southern Alaska, which signals the start of winter. As the last days of autumn start counting down, the termination dust starts creeping lower and lower until it reaches the ground.


Dan McElrath Quartet playing the Bunnell St Art Centre

We treated ourselves to a nice seafood dinner at the highly-regarded Mermaid Cafe in Homer. The food tasted so delicious, but I think that might have had something to do with us having eaten nothing but sandwiches and soup for the last couple of months! After dinner, we strolled through old historic Homer and heard the sound of live music from around the corner. After standing at the door of the Bunnell St Art Centre for a couple of seconds, the audience beckoned us in and we stayed a while to listen to local Anchorage artist Dan McElrath and his quartet play some cool jazz. The live music was such a nice change to my 3,000 mp3 playlist, which I've already listened to 6 or 7 times over...


Waves crashing on the beach at sunset on Homer Spit


Beautiful views of the mountains, but jam packed with condos, shops, RV parks, parking lots, docks, etc.


Waiting for tourists dollars - too late in the season, maybe next year


Marina at Homer Spit

There are several marinas that house a few hundred boats docked at Homer Spit. The natural beauty of the area has attracted all sorts of commerce that caters to the seasonal tourist traffic. Not a value judgment, as we're tourists as well.


Marina at Homer Spit


Evening colours on the beach on Homer Spit


We picked a rainy weekend to visit, but it did make for some nice colours when the sky finally cleared


After sub-zero slumber, we wake up to clear skies and blue waters!

When we woke up, our tents were stiff like plastic from the frozen dew. We're starting to feel very rushed to escape the impending winter. From Homer, it's a short ride to the west side of the peninsula. On our way to Seward, we pass Exit Glacier, only one of the glaciers accessible by road, so we stopped to hike up to the edge and take some pictures.


Exit Glacier

The Exit Glacier is quickly receding due to the Ice Age cycles. Ever since the last mini Ice Age ended in the early 1800s, the glacier has retreated several thousand feet. All along the path on the hike up to the terminus, there are signposts with the dates marking the position of the edge of the glacier over the last hundred years.


hiking around Exit Glacier


Neda shields her eyes from the glare of the ice


Exit Glacier


Close-up of the peak of Exit Glacier


The town of Seward has amazing views of the mountains surrounding the Kenai Peninsula


Finally some sunshine! Returning from a weekend on the Kenai Peninsula

The cold weather has strengthened our resolve to get out of Alaska as soon as we can. Businesses have closed for the end of the season which should be a sure sign that we shouldn't be riding around on motorcycles up here.
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Great blog! Keep it up!
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Originally Posted by Mervifwdc View Post
Great blog! Keep it up!
Thanks for the encouragement! Glad to know somebody's reading!
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Update from Sep 09 2012: Chased out of Alaska



We arrive in Anchorage very late, but fortunately we heard that the local Harley Davidson dealership offers free camping for motorcycle travelers. How nice of them! No one is at the dealership on the Sunday night, but fortunately the MotoQuest rental guys (who share the same parking lot as HD Anchorage) gives us access to the washroom and showers. A hot shower feels so amazing after a cold day of riding! If only we could find some way to heat the tent!


Lonely tent in the HD Anchorage backyard, our GSes parked upstairs

Another night of sub-zero temperatures. It is friggin' freezing and there are no other campers here. Because they have common sense. HD Anchorage is closed on Mondays, I wish they were open so I could thank them for the free accommodations!


Ice on our tent and the bike covers


Slightly east of Anchorage on the AK-1N, we pass several magnificent glaciers in Chugach State Park.


So hard to keep your eyes on the road with this just off the highway

The ride north-east from Anchorage to Tok was a surprise. Nobody told us this road would be so entertaining and scenic. The highway winds through a wide variety of sub-arctic forests, glaciers, streams and mountains. Perhaps its overshadowed by the Dalton Highway, but the road to Tok should be a Must-Do on anyone's list if they are riding Alaska!


Along the way we pass Bob from Switzerland on an old Suzuki

At one of our scenic stops, I asked Neda if she noticed the guy from Switzerland on the motorcycle we passed. She said, "Oh, you mean Bob? How do you know he was from Switzerland?" I replied, "There was a huge CH on the back of one of his panniers. How do you know his name was Bob?"... "His panniers also had his name, Bob". Funny, most people advertise their website, others just want everyone to know their name, I guess...


Threatening sky, Wrangell Mountains in the distance

At Wrangell State Park, AK-1 merges with the Richardson Highway (AK-4) and we head north towards Tok. The Wrangell Mountains dominate the scenery for a good hour before we reach the park, and is still visible as we skirt the western edge on our way to the Alaska Highway. The mountains are all volcanic, and make up two of the top three highest volcanoes in the US.


Awesome late autumn colours on the way to Tok


Fall colours glamour shot


Different view of the Wrangell Mountains

We arrived at Tok in the late afternoon, at the intersection of the Richardson and Alaska Highway. So we settled in at the Tok Visitor Centre for a homemade sandwich. In the parking lot, we see Bob from Switzerland's bike. Except it wasn't Bob from Switzerland. All the panniers were fashioned out of pieces of electoral signs. One read Bob, and another was a fragment reading "CH" on the back! Inside, we met Austen, a 22-year old adventurer from Anchorage on Day 1 of his own Round-The-World motorcycle trip. I remember when we first set out way back in the middle of June, and how we told everyone we were on the Never-Ending-Motorcycle-Trip. Funny, that doesn't seem that long ago at all!

Austen just graduated and was planning on riding down to California, where he would sell the motorcycle and then catch a boat to Vietnam and then buy another motorbike there to ride around. Very cool and gutsy! Hopefully we'll meet up with him again on our travels. Neda and I talked a bit about the timing of our trips, and the pros and cons of doing it before the start of a career, right in the middle, or at retirement. Austen's going to have such a different experience than us old farts!


Bob from Switzerland? No, Austen from Anchorage!

Austen left Tok before us, since his pace was a bit slower. We told him we might see him again on the road when we crossed the border. The sun was setting very fast, and since we spent more time in Tok than we wanted to, we arrived at the Alaska/Yukon border in the freezing darkness, all our electrics cranked to the highest setting. Immediately upon crossing the border, the pavement became more broken, and we crossed several gravel patches in the dark at highway speeds, causing some pucker-moments. I guess that's what happens when you ride from one of the richest states in the US to the poorest provinces/territories in Canada.


Sun setting on the golden trees on the way back to Canada

The actual Canadian border patrol was about 20 kms past the geographic border. Not too worried about national security up here... The guard at the customs building looked at us with pity and told us there were hot showers at a campsite in Beaver Creek, about 10 kms away. As we arrive at the campsite, a couple of Eastern Europeans hop out of a rental car at the gas station and ask what kind of tires we were running. Strange question. They told us that it was snowing heavily just an hour east at Destruction Bay, and that they were slipping around on their four-wheels, they seemed genuinely concerned about our safety. We assured them we were staying put for the night.

The tent went up slowly, with all our cold-weather gear on, gloves and everything. We knew it was below 0C because there were icy patches everywhere. We could see our breath inside the tent! And it got even colder overnight, as we shivered in our sleeping bag with all our winter clothes on underneath. During the middle of the night, I checked the weather app on my iPhone: -9C (15F).

To whomever is chasing us out of the Arctic: We get the message loud and clear. We're going, we're going! Please let it be warmer tomorrow...
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Old 18 Oct 2012
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We've just stepped over an imaginary line on a map, so the scenery in the Yukon Territory is pretty much the same as in Alaska, seeing how its basically the same range of mountains. Although the views all around us are fantastic, it's taking us forever to escape the cold weather. The roads are lined with snow from the night before, but thankfully it hasn't stuck to the pavement.


Riding in Arctic temperatures? 'snow problem!

Instead of doubling back on the Cassiar Highway south, we've opted to take the Alaska Highway all the way through the Yukon and into British Columbia. It's bit of a longer route, but the pavement is much better and there are more services available than the Cassiar. Or so we thought...


Kluane Lake

We stopped for lunch at Destruction Bay and talked to the locals about the snowfall they received the night before. Everyone remarked how late we were out in the season, and we nodded, pretending it was the first time we've heard that: "Oh really? You don't say!". We're eating out (or inside) a lot in the Arctic because it is just too damn cold to stay outside, and the expenses are mounting because of it. It is not cheap up here, everything is about 1.5 times what it would cost in the south. The motto up here is, "Less for more!"


Beautiful mountains in the Kluane National Park

Our destination for the evening is Whitehorse, which takes us past the snow-crusted mountains of the Kluane National Park to our south. I didn't know much about Alaska and the Yukon before coming out here, and the one thing I'm taking back with me is how mountainous the region is.


Mountain riding in the Yukon Territory

It was a cold ride to Whitehorse and we set up camp in the outskirts of the city. We're staying here for a couple of days to recharge our batteries. Literally: I mean laptop, camera, iPhone batteries, etc. We spent the whole day in the public library catching up on blog entries and e-mails to friends and family back home.


Kilroy was here

Whitehorse has some of the same touristy Gold-Rush-style buildings as Dawson City and it was nice to get off the bikes and walk around the downtown core. Again, we treated ourselves to a hot meal at the Klondike Rib and Salmon Bake, promising that we'd tighten up our belts when the weather got warmer. In the restaurant, we read an ominous sign: "7 days till the end of the season!". We are pushing it right till the very end of tourist season, after which time most services and facilities geared to travelers would be shutting down for the cold winter ahead.


The hot food was soooo good. Neda had elk stew with bannock and I had pasta with bison sausages

The next day, we continued along the Alaska Highway, past the familiar junction of the Cassiar Highway and the town of Watson Lake, towards BC. The Alaska Highway was originally built by the US government as a direct response to the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. They felt the proximity of Alaska to Japan left the undefended north too vulnerable, and two years and 1500 miles later, a road was built to supply troops, equipment and weapons to Fairbanks. Canada agreed to let the highway be built through BC and Yukon provided that the highway be turned over to the Canadian Army and Highway System after the war. What we ended up getting was a rough gravel road in such disrepair that the federal government had to spend millions more over several decades to pave the Alaska "Highway".


Jordi is one huge dude. Neda is 5'8", and she's wearing tall boots and her helmet in this shot!

Staying up here so late in the season, one of our worst fears is realized: running out of gas. Although there are petrol stations situated every 75kms or so, all it takes is one or two of them to be closed to put us in dire straits. We pass two gas stations that were shut down for the season with our tanks well below the empty mark. Thankfully we have spare gas, unused from our trip up the Dalton Highway, so we pulled over to fill our tanks. There we met Jordi, a fellow GS rider who shipped his bike from Spain to ride all across the Americas. He too, was tapping into his spare jerry can, so we chatted for a while.


Our Spanish is not so good, and Jordi's English is not much better, but we spoke the international language of Maps


Jordi is telling us how he bench-presses R1200GS Adventures in his spare time


Rotopax to the rescue!

I've got 3.78L in my Rotopax, but Neda's Touratech spare gas can only holds a paltry 3L. When you're empty, this doesn't really give you a lot of range, as the gauges on our bikes have barely budged at all after refueling! Then again, GS fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate. Mine came with a sticker below the gauge reading, "For Entertainment Purposes Only"...

Aside from the freezing weather, now we have to contend with the dwindling services on the road back south.
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We're due for a little break in our northern travels, so we've stopped for a couple of days at the Liard Hot Springs, just south of the Yukon/BC border. The rains briefly stop one evening, as we try to time our escape to the pools. The springs are surrounded by warm water swamps and heavy forests, lending a very remote feel, despite being less than a km away from the Alaska Highway.


So relaxing!

The Liard Hot Springs is the second-largest hot springs in Canada. We've already visited the first on this trip, Radium Hot Springs, also in BC. It's still pretty cold out, about 10C, but the waters are 42C in the "cold" pool, and the 52C in the hot one, the constant steam rising providing an eerie backdrop against the bathers in the springs.


Lounging around in the hot pool


The hot pool is too hot, can't stay in too long


Namaste.


Neda's tattoo turned out amazing


The rains start up again, Neda laughingly emulates the sound: *plok* *plok *plok*

The rain continues to hammer on our tent overnight, but in the morning, it is overcast and we're ready to continue our journey southwards. We are warned that a herd of buffalo are on the move along the highway, and it's not 5 kms from Liard that we stumble upon the first group grazing and lazing about.


Where the buffalo roam...


These guys were huuuge!

There's a lot of wildlife in northern BC, and we have a couple of close calls as we round the bend and encounter animals (and overturned vehicles) on the road!


More wildlife on the road


Different kind of wildlife on the side of the road

The weather is getting warmer as we stop for the night in Fort Saint James. It feels like we are slowly escaping the cold clutches of the north. At least while the sun is up...
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My wife and I are really enjoying following your trip, we're sitting here in the UK and planning a trip over to Canada in the next couple of years - not on the bike this time as we're bringing our son too, so it'll be a camper van. Your photo's are just brilliant and your words are inspirational.

Keep safe. We're thinking of you!!

Graham, Marion & Ben. Sussex, England

PS - If you get over here, there's always somewhere for you to stay here at our house.
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It's been a long slog down from the cold north. We've pounded out two thousand kms of pavement since crossing the border - the forests of northern BC all blurring into a hypnotic mess of trees and deer, strings of closed gas stations and ceaseless sandwiches by the roadside. As we hit the southern interior of the province, we're welcomed by the warmth of the drylands. At a campsite in Cache Creek, we break out the maps in search of some off-road fun.


Basking in the heat of the sun, Fraser River in the background

There's a great-looking dual sport road that runs from Ashcroft, on the other side of the Fraser River from the main TransCanada Highway heading south. This is the first day we've ridden without layering up like Michelin Men. The temperature soars to 31C and we're thankfully for our mesh riding gear.


Looking for adventure!


Headless horseman on the hills of the Fraser


The Fraser Canyon slowly becomes the Fraser Valley around here


Beautiful day, beautiful roads and awesome scenery!


Bikes and gravel roads reflected off Neda's visor


It hasn't rained for days and there's a fairly deep water crossing. Wonder what it looks like after a rainfall?


Curious mountain sheep wondering why we are taking heavy street machinery onto a dirtbike road...


Out of nowhere, an old dilapidated church! How random!


Uphill climb through some rubble. I can do it.... I can do it...


... I can't do it....

I get done in by a conspiracy of really large rocks, ambushing me near the top. Bad line selection and the big GS suddenly becomes sleepy and decides to take a nap right then and there. Neda comes in over the intercom, "What's taking you so long...?", "I'm... uh, just enjoying the scenery..." There was no way I was going to lift this bad boy by myself, so I sheepishly radio her for help.


Standing up on pegs on the way down - same rocky mess as uphill


Across the Fraser we see TransCanada 1 and a colourful CP Rail train underneath it, snaking in and out of tunnels. It looks like a toy!


The gravel road hugs the hills as it the Fraser River twists and turns below us


Wake up! It's time to go!

Over the intercom, I hear a series of F-bombs and around the bend, I see Neda standing over her sleeping GS. The road switches back on itself as it steeply ascends one of the mountains and the inside line that Neda's taken is full of sand. Her slumbering motorcycle becomes a cautionary tale and I take the outside line, past the clutches of the Sandman, ride past her up the mountain, park and the walk down to help her right her bike... Still pissed off when I got back...


Okay, we're happy again!

Right at the end of the trail, a closed gate stops us from reaching the highway. I spy a padlock on the chain and now it's my turn to be pissed. It was late in the afternoon and there was no way we were going to turn around and do this trail again, cross the Fraser and then ride the TransCanada just to get back to this very spot! I was seriously thinking about how to break the lock, but when I walk up to the gate, I see that the padlock was just holding the loop of the chain around the top of the fencepost. An easy matter to slip the loop off and open the gate. *phew*

Just kidding about smashing the lock.

Maybe...


This is the PG-rated version


We notice a sign as we are leaving. Um... at least we didn't do any hunting...?

Starving, and a bit tired from all the playing in the dirt, we go in search of food. There's a nice Chinese restaurant just down the road, and we splurge a bit, ordering the chicken chow mein and beef fried rice. Almost as soon as the dishes hit the table, it was all gone, the final victim of a fun-filled day on the Cache Creek back roads.


Neda's fortune cookie - how true!
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